Describe Kohlberg’s Stages or Moral Development

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Unit 1: Understand Child and Young Person Development
1.1 Describe Kohlberg’s stages or moral development
Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is an adaptation of the development theory of Jean Piaget. Piaget studied many aspects of moral judgment, most of his findings fit into a two stage process of moral development. Put into the simplest of terms, Stage 1: children younger than 10 or 11 years think about moral dilemmas one way and Stage 2: older children consider them differently. Kohlberg modified and expanded upon Piaget’s work to form a theory that explained the development of moral reasoning. He outlined the development in six stages, with three different levels; he proposed that moral development is a process that occurs throughout the lifespan of a person. Kohlberg’s theory was based upon research and interviews with young children, his core sample (1958) comprised of 72 boys aged 10, 13 and 16, from both middle and lower class families in Chicago. Later he expanded the sample to include a wider range of children, delinquents, younger children and boys and girls from other American cities and also from other countries (1963, 1970). Kohlberg presented to these children a series of moral dilemmas which they answered and were then interviewed about. Example of one of the dilemmas presented:

Heinz Steals the Drug
"In Europe, a woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000 which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said: "No, I discovered the drug and I'm going to make money from it." So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man's store to steal the drug-for his wife. Should the husband have done that?" (Kohlberg, 1963).

Kohlberg was not interested in the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer provided; he was interested in the reasoning behind each of the children’s answers. The result wanted from the interviews of subjects was to see why they thought Heinz should or should not have stolen the drug. Once this had been established, further questions were asked in order to better understand the rationale behind the answers, e.g. the subjects were asked if Heinz had a right to steal the drug, if he was violating the druggist's rights, and what sentence the judge should give him once he was caught. Again, the focus of these questions was to ascertain the reasoning behind the answers. The interview then carried on to give further dilemmas, so that a better understanding of the subjects’ moral thinking could be obtained. From the results of these studies Kohlberg analyzed the form of moral reasoning, as opposed to the conclusion and classified it as belonging to one of six stages. Kohlberg want to be sure that his classifications were reliable, i.e. he wanted to know if others would score the protocols in the same manner. So, other judges independently scored a sample of the responses, from this Kohlberg calculated the degree to which all raters agreed, this was known as “interrater reliability”. Kohlberg’s Six Stages

Level 1. Preconventional Morality
Stage 1 - Obedience and Punishment
The stage here is similar to Piaget’s first stage and is the earliest stage of moral development is especially common in young children, but adults are also capable of expressing this type of reasoning. At this stage, children see rules as fixed and absolute. Obeying the rules is important because it is a means to avoid punishment. When asked to expand on their answer a child would...
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